Pious Exercises in Perspective

Father Guibert observes: “In return for the sacrifices that you undertake in order to make room for your spiritual exercises amidst your occupations, and to pray in spite of your dryness, God recompenses you with an increase of grace. During the hours that you spend, even in aridity, beneath the eyes of the Father, His gifts fall upon you like a blessed rain that waters and makes you bear fruit. By the holy inspirations that He gives you, by the pious readings in which you spend your time, and by the spiritual instructions that you go to hear, He sheds upon you His light, and He stirs within you the glow of His love. All these are benefits of which you would have been deprived, if you had omitted your exercises by neglect. Say not that all this is a loss of time, for during the hours you devote to Him, even if they yield no consolation, God sows in your soul seeds which contain in germ the harvests of the future.”

“It is not a good thing for such exercises to take up the whole of the day, nor even the greater part of your time. For you have the duties of your state to fulfil, and you must remember that the duties of your state ought not to come between you and God. Even if you were sufficiently at leisure to give all your time to piety, you ought not to be advised to do it. It would, indeed, be a bad thing for your mind to be always on the strain; if it had not long intervals of rest, it would end by breaking down or becoming dulled. Moreover, the thought of God will follow you amidst your work, and even if it were to become unconscious and entirely virtual, its impulse will, nevertheless, be the force that will guide you. You will, then, take a reasonable time for your exercises of piety. What is it to be? You will fix it according to the leisure left you by the duties of your state.”

“Regularity in pious exercises demands as much flexibility as delicacy. If it requires exactitude, still, there must be no rigidity. Just as negligence would be harmful, so inflexibility would be out of place. A duty of one’s state of life must always take precedence of an exercise of piety, and often a deed of charity will have to come first. For, if we consider rightly, we only cultivate piety in order to be virtuous and good; and it would be to do an injury to piety if we were to put it before the end it has in view.”

Quotations from Jean Guibert, On Piety (London: R. & T. Washbourne, Ltd., 1911).

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